Following Office for Architectural Culture's (OAC) win on the international design competition and completion of the master plan for Famen Temple Zen Meditation Centre in 2012, the London-based OAC recently completed the schematic designs for the buildings, landscape, and experiential features and art installations for meditation in the first phase of the project called the ‘Eightfold Path Forest’. This forest surrounds the renowned historic temple’s £148m new Namaste Dagoba where the world’s only Buddha Sakyamuni’s finger bone relic is preserved today.
The project is part of the new cultural master plan development on the site of the renowned 1,800 year-old Famen Buddhist Temple (also known as Dharma Gate Temple) outside Xi’an, China. As the imperial temple in the powerful Tang Dynasty at the peak of the ancient Silk Road era, it is considered a holy place amongst Buddhist pilgrims around the world today. The Famen Temple Meditation Centre project OAC has been commissioned to design has a total 1,250,000 sq m site area and 300,000 sq m building floor areas.
This is one of the largest architectural and landscape commissions in the world focused around an historic religious temple. It includes the 1km square ‘Eightfold Path Forest’, four museums and a performing arts theatre, manuscript-copy halls, several large venues for meditation activities, a Buddhist academy, an art complex, a music complex, a concert hall, a 5-star Zen-theme boutique hotel and a 5-star hotel, and over a thousand meditation lodges for meditating residents.
Buddhist Cultural Interactive Museum, which also houses a 1,500-seat theatre for performing arts alongside its exhibition use, marries Buddhist principles, original Zen Buddhist concepts of Tang Dynasty, and its geographic relationship with the Earth.
Whilst the orientation of the building is 9.5 degrees northwest from true north, the central gallery and theatre, located underground, are orientated to the true north with a perfect 2-dimensional symmetry. This allows visitors to experience through a series of experiential contrasts, which end with a performing arts space with religiousness, sacredness, purity and richness. The theatre is designed to have performances and religious ceremonial events that are interactive with audiences.
Zen Eco Museum, which includes one of the energy centres serving the development, demonstrates the religion’s ecological and environmental principles, as well as the development’s commitments to sustainable communities. It also offers educational opportunities to a wider audience.
The two religious Manuscript-copy Halls are organised using simple geometries and symmetry, linked by a meditative tunnel aimed to bring people into the meditative state of mind. Shelves for historic manuscripts and archives form part of the architectural space of each hall, providing a peaceful yet sacred atmosphere for this Buddhist meditative activity.